The Ambition of Perfection and Its Great Reward


rav moshe meir weissBy Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss

One of the fundamental directives in the Torah is “Tomim tihi’ye im Hashem Elokecha,” to exist wholly with Hashem, your G-d.  This verse has many ramifications.  Firstly, it instructs us not to put our trust in other devices such as amulets and the like (Sefer Chasidim).  The Rama, in Shulcahn Oruch [264] writes that there are Rishonim who inform us that one can determine certain specifics about the coming year from studying the moon on the night of Hoshanah Rabbah.  He then says that we are not experts in this and it is much more preferable to follow the mandate of “Tomim tihi’ye im Hashem Elokecha.”

I would like to dwell on an entirely different element of this verse.  The Chizkuni explains that the verse is conveying the mission of achieving shleimus, completion, in our mitzvos.  He states that tomim and shleimus are me’inyan echad, they are synonymous.  Thus, the verse is urging us to try to do our mitzvos as perfectly as possible.  This is a very rewarding pursuit, for the Rabbeinu Yonah (on the first Mishna in the second chapter of Pirkei Avos) quotes a vital but little known teaching of our sages, “Kol ha’oseh mitzvah kimamorah afilu gzar din shel shivim shana teebatel – Whoever does even one mitzvah the way it was meant to be done, even an evil decree that was seventy years in the making will be cancelled.”  Since, as we said last week, a good formula for Rosh Hashannah is to tell Hashem we want a better year so here is how we are going to be better, then what better time is there then now in Elul, to work upon achieving completion in our mitzvos.

Let’s take an example.  Let’s say that you want to work on perfecting your Friday night Kiddush.  Here’s how you would go about it.  First of all, you’ll make sure that the Kiddish kos, cup, is properly polished in honor of Shabbos.  Even then, before Kiddush, there is a mitzvah of shtifa and hadocha, to rinse the kos freshly inside and out.  Then, the cup should be filled to the very top, preferably with tasty red wine.  You should elevate the kos in your hand when you say Kiddush.  You should instruct your family members, including the women (who also have a mitzvah of “Zochor es yom HaShabbos l’kadsho – to remember the Sabbath day, to sanctify it”) to pay attention to the meaning of the words and to be sure to answer Amein.  You should train yourself to look at the candles while saying ‘Vayachulu,’ for it helps to restore one’s eyesight.  You should make sure to concentrate on both elements of Kiddush which are “Zeicher l’maase Bereishis – In remembrance of the Creation of the world,” and “Zeicher l’yitzias Mitzrayim – In remembrance of the Exodous.”  (We rest on Shabbos recalling how Hashem allowed us to rest from the servitude of Egypt.)  As the late Satman Rebbe ztl, zya, emphasized, if we only commemorate the Creation of the world, this is true for all nations.  However, the emancipation from Egypt is uniquely Jewish.

Finally, (and this is by no means a complete list), let’s work upon saying Boruch Atah Hashem, M’Kadeish HaShabbos – Blessed are You Hashem, for sanctifying the Shabbos,” with more feeling.  What does it mean, the sanctification of the Shabbos?  It means that we don’t have a Saturday when people are out washing their cars or sitting two hours in traffic to go to the beach, or warding off the doldrums boredom.  Instead, we have the sanctity of Shabbos with everything that it entails.

Let’s take one more example of trying to be more sholeim, complete, in a mitzvah.  Since, on Rosh Hashannah, we plead for life for ourselves and our loved ones, let’s take a look at the three letter word, amein.  The Gemora says that if we concentrate on our  amein, “Marichin lo yomov u’shnosov,” it enhances the quality of our days and prolongs the length of our lives.  Let’s first work on one specific instance of saying amein, the amein to blessing of Boruch Atah Hashem, Shomei’ah Tefilah, Blessed are You Hashem, Who listens to our prayers.

To make this amein more complete, we have to really believe in what we are saying.  After all, amein means it is true and I believe in it.  Do we believe while we are davening that Hashem is listening with exclusive attention to what we are saying?  In this case, amein has a second meaning, that is “Kein yehi ratzon – So should it be Your will,” that You accept the prayers of all Klal Yisroel with mercy.  Rabbeinu Bachya adds a third meaning for he says the amein is also a response to the Boruch Atah Hashem and we are saying that it is true that Hashem should be blessed and that He is the Source of all blessings.

These activities can be applied in a very rewarding way to many mitzvos.  A housewife can work on the perfection of the mezuzah in the kitchen, training herself when looking at it to remember that Hashem is observing her behavior in the kitchen, how careful she is with milchigs and fleishigs, whether she knows that all of the ingredients are certainly kosher.  Is she knowledgeable enough of what she is not allowed to do on Shabbos?  We can shift such attention to the mitzvah of kivud Av v’Eim, or, here’s a good one:  the rarified mitzvah of preparing for Shabbos.  Now, the women don’t need a reminder about this but men can use a refresher course: Sharpening the knife, pre-lighting the candles, tasting the food, buffing the shoes, brushing the hat, opening whatever needs to be open (the wine, the sodas, plastic-wrapped magazines, baby wipes, tissue boxes), checking the lights, the fires under the blech, and giving a helping hand to his wife.

We should shine the shleimus light of attention to our torah study,  birchas hamazon, tefillin and tzitzis, krias shema, and the list goes on and on.  In the merit of our pursuit of mitzvah perfection, may all evil decrees be torn and may Hashem bless us and our loved ones with a healthy, sweet and delicious New Year.

Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.

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